Microsoft defends Government 2.0 Taskforce funding conditions

Projects applying for $2.45m in funding must sign on as Microsoft Contractors

Microsoft has defended its decision to enforce stringent conditions on up to $2.45 million in funding which it plans to supply to support proposed projects under the Government 2.0 Taskforce initiative.

The conditions, detailed in its , have raised the ire of participants in the Government 2.0 Taskforce project and include the ability for Microsoft to demand contractors provide specific training to staff at the contractors’ expense, that contractors fire and replace specific staff at Microsoft’s request, and that Microsoft itself can fire participants in the Gov 2.0 taskforce scheme.

As Microsoft was providing the funds, it was a legal requirement that suppliers commissioned by the Taskforce enter into a contract with Microsoft, a spokesperson for the company said.

“The Services Agreement and Operational Deed were discussed and agreed between Microsoft and the Secretariat of the Government 2.0 Taskforce,” the spokesperson said. “The Services Agreement is a standard form template that contains terms and conditions that are common in commercial contracts. That said, in relation to any successful contractor, Microsoft is open to amending the Services Agreement to ensure the projects they have been selected to provide can be delivered.”

According to the spokesperson, Microsoft has publicly stated that the only conditions it required of such amendments were that they did not negatively impact the integrity of Microsoft’s relationship to the Taskforce, that the intellectual property (IP) created in the project be assigned or licensed to the Commonwealth and that Microsoft’s shareholders were not exposed to additional financial or reputational risk.

The conditions imposed by Microsoft have raised several issues among those participating in the Taskforce project, many of which have been discussed on the project’s homepage.

Commenting in a blog post on the issue, James Purser from Collaborynth, a collaboration and LocGov2.0 consultancy participating in the project, argued that participants did not expect to have to sign on as a contractor to Microsoft.

“For myself, the biggest issues relate to the IP and ability of Microsoft to dictate how a project is to be conducted, down the to the fact that Microsoft has the ability to both demand the signee to replace employees on the project without recourse (employees being a major issue for community projects who don't tend to have employees),” the post reads.

“With regards to the IP of any project, it doesn't seem to allow for Open Source licensing at all. Rather seeking to invest all rights to the nominated party (in this case the Federal Government). This seems to preclude the use of Open Source software, it also seems to affect third party projects that may wish to participate.”

Andrew Perry director at Legal Consult, an intellectual property, technology and communications practice, posted that the contract needed to be reviewed in the context of the open innovation it is intended to promote.

“As an organisation…we are concerned by a number of the clauses and are preparing a list of the ones that we are concerned with that we will, in the spirit of openness, post here,” the post reads. “I think this is going to be a huge learning experience for all involved, on the road to gov2au!”

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